Keeping it Real

There’s more to writing “tween” books than making characters come to life, crafting unique plots, and weaving suspense and humor throughout.

You also have to keep up with the times—what’s cool nowadays? What do nine to thirteen year olds think about? Are you using phrases or similes that relate to them?

This concept became obvious to me a few weeks ago when my husband and I decided to take my kids on a hike in Southern Utah.

photo 4

We were in an area with lots of natural red-rock formations. Some of them were high up on mountain tops, like the “elephant rock.” Other face-like formations were on the sides of dangerous cliffs. There was one outcropping of rocks on the top of a plateau, however, that was within our reach. By the locals it’s called the “milk bottles.”

“Huh? Milk bottles?” my kids asked. “What are those?”

It’s true. My children have never seen a milk bottle before. To them, milk comes in one gallon plastic jugs at the local grocery store.

We pointed to where the milk bottles were. They couldn’t see them. We then explained the precise location. Still nothing. Then we did one simple thing that changed their entire perspective.

“Think of them as water bottles,” I said.

“Oh,” my children said, “we can see them now!”

So, in the morning hours of that late summer day, I hiked, with my husband and children, to the “water bottles.”

Fifty years ago kids would have been stumped if you’d called them water bottles. Who drank their water out of bottles? But in 2014, that’s what our kids know.

One word can make all the difference.

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Unlocking the Reader Within You

I’ve got twin boys, Charlie and Xander. Obviously, since I’m a writer, I love to read. I’ve always loved to read. So when my kids were little, I thought, “Of course they’ll love to read, too!” I thought a kid’s interest in reading was a direct result of their parent reading to them. Um, no. At least, not with Charlie.

Xander’s interest in reading naturally evolved into a personal activity. He was choosing his own books and reading on his own from a pretty young age. Charlie, though . . . *sigh*. Not so much.

I struggled to interest Charlie in reading for years. YEARS. I bought books, I borrowed books, I tried to offer incentives, I tried making it “homework”. Nothing worked!

Reading is so important. Personally, I wondered how can a person survive in life without the escape/wonderment/joy that books can bring. As an adult, I also understood that reading plays a part in virtually everything in life. Being a good reader is not just for enjoyment, it’s essential to life success.

But … Ah! How could I get this guy to read, already!?

When Charlie was twelve, a new library opened in our town, so we went to the grand opening. I told the boys they could check out whatever book they wanted. Xan was reading big middle grade books like Harry Potter and Fablehaven, but Charlie gravitated to the Young Adult section. I was nervous about that. I wasn’t sure he was ready to handle a lot of the older themes present in so many Young Adult books.

But I decided to keep my mom-mouth shut and promised myself to stay out of his way so he could find a book he was interested in and (please-oh-please) actually READ IT.

He chose a zombie book.


The Zombies of Lake Woebegotten by Harrison Geillor

I quickly did some research and was relieved to discover that Garrison Keillor, using a pen name, was the author of this work and I knew something about him. I don’t know if it would have mattered what I discovered, though–Charlie had chosen a book that he wanted to read. I was determined to keep myself out of it!

Now Charlie is a consistent reader. His SRI scores have increased tremendously, but maybe even more important to me as a mom/reader/writer is that Charlie has found joy in stories.

So if you’re a mom desperate to get your kid into reading, or a kid wondering if you’ll ever be able to join the reading masses, hang in there. Take yourself to the library and spend some time in whatever section appeals to you–NOT the section your friends/mother/enemy says you should be in. There’re no rules as to what makes for good reading material–just read.

And … enjoy!


Alex 1 (2)Alex Banks likes to say she holds a black belt in awesome since the only kind of kicking-butt she does is on paper. She lives in Utah with her kickin’ husband, two sparring sons, one ninja cat, one samurai dog and four zen turtles.

Alex writes Young Adult and New Adult fiction (suitable for readers over fourteen) under the name Ali Cross.

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New Release: The Columbus Initiative by Teen Author Adam Quinn #MiddleGrade

Order of the Sky (Book 3)
by Adam Quinn (aka Dark Omen)
Even as the fledgling Galactic Resistance prepares for an all-out revolution, a dark government secret comes to light that has the potential to shape the future of the galaxy.

Kindle, Nook on Adam’s website

All Adam’s books on Smashwords, Barnes and Noble
available in ebook and print
Adam Quinn is the son of Emblazoner Susan Kaye Quinn.
My son, Adam Quinn, is fifteen years old and has written three novels, a novella, and is currently working on his next novella. He seriously puts his mother to shame in the Early Potential Unlocked category. 

Click here to check out Adam’s author website, where he talks about the Columbus Initiative being his longest novel (100k), the strategy board game Resistance Rising he made to go with the book, and finally an analysis (complete with charts) of the wordcount and statistics, including charts like this:

Using longer wordlength than Romeo and Juliet…
Be still, my geeky heart.

He also has analyses of the number of female characters in each book of his trilogy, the relative “inquisitiveness” of various characters (Xasked/Xsaid), and the causes of death of his characters vs. in real-life in the US.

I just… wow.

Also check out this interview with Adam from his previous release of his novella Project Exibluar, and this post on publishing your kid’s work from when he released his novel Undercover War.

To say I’m proud of him is a serious understatement. In each novel, I can see Adam’s growth as a young person and as a writer – is there any greater gift for a mother? But these are books that more than his mother can appreciate – his brothers Mighty Mite and Worm Burner are by far his biggest fans, gobbling up Book 3 during our Canadian vacation and debating the finer worldbuilding points with him, turning into beta readers in their own right.

And the books are flat-out entertaining. Here’s a snippet to give you an idea of what I mean…

     “Done.” Aidan stood and disconnected his OWC from the computers. “We now have operational control over most of the base’s systems, including the starship entrance, and I have the profiles of all active Dark Cult cells in the galaxy on my OWC. Let’s get out of this place.”

     “How?” Steve asked.

     “The same way we got in,” Aidan said.

     “Crawling through derelict construction spaces?” Taylor asked.

     “No,” Aidan said. “With style.

And this…

     The battleship GGS Buttercup and its fleet disengaged their flip drives, returning to the third dimension from the seventh, where superluminal travel was possible. Their reentry into the third dimension presented GG Commander Mantradome with a picturesque view of Sambourloin—a soft green and blue orb in the star-speckled void. She cupped her hands around it and imagined what it would look like in splotchy shades of black and gray, perhaps with some seams of brilliant red if Sambourloin was a Tectonic planet—she made a mental note to look up if it was.

     Most times the GG offered her a special assignment that took her away from her day job of hunting down and killing pirates, she vehemently refused, but this time was different. They had offered her a chance to paint an entire planet of pirate-loving scum with her favorite colors! There were rumors on Galactica that she had gotten the job because the GG’s other top admirals had moral qualms about the operation, but she didn’t put too much stock in that—back in the day, people had “moral qualms” about strip-mining Jorkuun, but that worked out great for the economy! Besides, the GG had been mostly peaceful for thousands of years, so as the head of the Anti-Piracy Division, she had more combat experience than most in the military.

     “Uh, Commander?” an officer said. “Would you like us to set up the bombardment stations? Or…just stay here?”

     “Yes!” Mantradome said. “Clearly! You should have started setting them up as soon as we flipped in, you idiots!”

     “But, Commander, you airlock everyone who does things that you don’t explicitly tell them to,” the officer said.

     Mantradome motioned to the two troopers at the back of the bridge. “Airlock him!”

     “Wait, no!” the officer said.

     The troopers seized him and dragged him away.

Adam writes hilarious middle grade fiction that any young (or old) fan of Star Wars would enjoy, with strong female characters that make his mom proud. If you have kids, I encourage them to check out his books and see what a young writer is capable of, if they put in the time to finish a work, revise, and polish it. 

An elite government force crosses the galaxy in pursuit of an evil underground cult and discovers the Galactic Government they serve is filled with treachery.

After escaping the destruction of a mysterious prison-like facility without a memory to his name, ExibluarX must contend with the malevolent legacy of his unknown past and decide whether to pursue it or to forge his own course.

A Beginner’s Guide to Making Choices that Matter by Monique Bucheger











Today, I’d like to talk about choices: Ones we make deliberately and ones we allow to be made for us—and how each can impact us.

The 4th through 8th grade or “middle grades” are extremely important years in everybody’s lives. These are the formative years when kids realize that life outside of their family home can be very different from what they are used to.

New ideas and concepts are pondered; new strategies to deal with the good, the bad, and the frustrating are explored—and experimented with.

Personal ethics and codes of behavior are tried on for size and comfort—often tailored and adjusted to fit the whims of peer pressure—good and bad.

Kids learn about who they are or what they want to be known as, and spend a lot of time trying to make others see them as they want to be seen or adapt their self-image to reflect what they see in other peoples’ eyes.

This can be positive or negative—depending on who is doing the accepting and / or rejecting of ideas and concepts.

We all remember the cliché kids: the class clown, the nerd, the bully, the bullied, the overachiever, the underachiever, the geek, the jock, the oddball, the social, the prep, the kid everybody liked, and the one who never quite fit in anywhere, but desperately wanted to.

Perhaps we were one or more of them—or another cliché student—either mixed up or altogether different at some point in our career as middle-grade students.

There comes a time when each person needs to make determinations about who they are, who they want to be, and take the steps to be that person.

This exploration and defining of our core self (of who we are and who we want to be and what that person looks like) becomes earnest and most important in our middle-grade years. This process is often the biggest foundation and shaper of our future self.

Children who are blessed with positive influences and a belief in their inherent goodness, travel through these formative years less scathed than children who are told they are worthless, and those who have the sad misfortune to believe such an atrocious lie.

Until Oct 1st, my friend, James A. Owen has given this link to allow his book: “Drawing Out the Dragons” FREE (a $19.99 value). He is highly sought after as a speaker for middle school audiences.

James is a supremely talented artist, and internationally bestselling author, and a superb human being—a self-proclaimed “Awesomist”—one who seeks to bring out the best in others and shares hard learned insights to bring light to other peoples’ lives.

I bring this up because a big part of the reason James is as successful as he is today is because he made courageous decisions about who he wanted to be as a middle-grade student.

Because we Emblazoner Authors are all about middle-graders—I wanted to take this opportunity to share this amazing book and it’s incredible insights to the audience it was meant to influence most: Tweens and young teens. (and it is only FREE for the next week.)

When he was 11, James spent several months in a hospital pretty certain he was going to die—three of his young roommates did die within a month of his admission to the hospital.

Doctors didn’t know what was wrong with him; they only knew he was becoming sicker as time went by. At age 11, James had decisions to make about what his future would—and should—hold. Believing he didn’t have much of a future—quite possibly only weeks or months, James fast-tracked those decisions with actions so that he could make the most of the time he had left.

The top banner on the cover of “Drawing out the Dragons” says: A Beginner’s Guide to Making Choices that Matter. This is a profound concept because quite often—even adults allow things to happen to them rather than be heroes in their own lives by making deliberate choices to be the best person they can be.

To be a hero in your own life, each person needs to take a stand and become the wind—rather than the leaf—that is buffeted about by the wind.

Making deliberate choices about how you live your life, and what you do on your personal journey here on earth directly affects your influence on what happens to you and how you affect those around you.

Two powerful messages that James repeats in his book are:

 If you really want to do something, no one can stop you.

But if you really don’t want to do something, no one can help you.


Never, ever, sacrifice what you want the most,

for what you want the most at that moment. 


Think about these messages a minute.

To further quote James:

“All good things happen . . . In Time.”

Choices are cumulative, but the results are not always apparent, or immediate. Sometimes you just have to keep making the right choices, even if it seems there’s no benefit to doing so.

Sooner or later, there will come a moment when what you really want most is tested, and how you respond in that moment will reveal the culmination of your choices. 

At that defining moment, his second message becomes truly powerful:

Never, ever, sacrifice what you want the most,

for what you want the most at that moment. 

It is my hope that the Tweens and others who read this post realize how important it is to make deliberate choices as to who they want to be and learn to believe in themselves and their dreams because truly:

 If you really want to do something, no one can stop you.

But if you really don’t want to do something, no one can help you.

So go forward and make informed choices–your future self will thank you.

Laugh lots … Love much …Write on!
















A Giant Web in the Brain—The Science of Creativity

I just spent several days in Tijuana, Mexico, doing volunteer medical work. My favorite site when I travel there is a community the volunteers fondly call ‘the dump’.

Yes, a real city dump. We set up a portable medical clinic at the site of the landfill, a place of extreme poverty, where, over time, a shanty town has risen from the trash-filled ground. Literally. Dig down a few inches anywhere and it’s someone else’s garbage.


Pepenadores—waste pickers—are people from the community who make their living picking through the trash left by dump trucks. Almost everything they have, wear, or eat comes from the dump. In the garbage, families find what they need to survive.

But this outcast community is an amazing place. As I make my way past a row of homes I’m stunned by the ingenuity of the people. They’ve built everything they need from junk that was uncovered in the landfill.


Example of artistic construction from junk. Tio’s Tacos, Riverside, CA. A wall is built from bottles, bottle caps, and cement. The restaurant’s owner grew up in Mexico in extreme poverty and he continues to re-use and re-purpose junk.

Houses on the landfill are pieced together from tarps, pallets, plywood, corrugated metal, and even old garage doors. Furniture is constructed using everything imaginable from buckets to tires. And art that can be sold is created from things like bottle caps, glass, and oil cans. It would seem ‘Dump city’ is a perfect example of creativity as a result of necessity, where everything thrown away is re-used, re-cycled and re-purposed.

So I began wondering about creativity and ingenuity. How can a community so impoverished be so creative to make everything they need from only the items they find? So many people living in America couldn’t even deal with that sort of existence, let alone survive.

Is creativity something one is born with or is it born of necessity? Is it a game of life where either you’ve got it or you don’t? What is creativity, anyway?


Mexican art from junk, Tio’s Tacos, Riverside, CA. This is a bench made from a discarded bed frame.


Mexican art from junk, Tio’s Tacos, Riverside, CA. Light fixture made from a tin can.

At the end of the clinic day, I walk the paths across the landfill. There are no sewers nor garbage collection on the dump. Electricity is stolen from nearby electrical poles and the dirt roads are pockmarked with mud-filled holes. There are no city services in an illegal town.

When there’s a rain storm, the hillsides bleed trash. Needles and bottles, plastic utensils and doll’s arms poke out of the mud like broken bones from an open wound.

Garbage tumbles into the ravines below, and mangy, stray dogs and wild chickens roam the debris. American volunteers see an abundance of trash, but the people living there see raw materials to make something they need.

Fires can erupt from the methane produced by decomposing trash, and when they do, homes are destroyed. Then the people, with unbelievable optimism, start over, fabricating new homes and new furniture from junk they salvage, and they continue their lives, but their lives are always difficult.


Even though they’re living on top of decades worth of trash, there’s a cemetery on the landfill where the dead are buried. The graves are piles of dirt or cement slabs, but families have planted trees, painted many of the slabs with bright colors and fabricated decorations. Walk through the graveyard in November and it’s gorgeous. Nearly every gravesite is beautifully decorated with flowers, offerings, and handmade religious items, all in celebration of El Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.


Mexican art, Tio’s Tacos, Riverside, CA. A painted skeleton head is often seen during Day of the Dead celebrations.

Every path I walk in the landfill community there is evidence of creativity despite the heavy burden of poverty. This phenomenon doesn’t happen only in the Tijuana dump. Across the world, especially in poorer countries, art is often the first commodity created, made from whatever the people have around them and sold on the streets to tourists.

Teaser of the upcoming documentary film “Landfill Harmonic”

In Paraguay, people living on a landfill have used the trash to create musical instruments. Their instrumental music is now available everywhere on the globe and a movie about them is in the works. Constructing instruments from junk and then playing them beautifully is real creativity!

So, how is creativity in such deprived areas explained?

Is necessity the mother of invention?

Sort of. But there’s more to invention than just necessity. According to scientist Jonathan Schattke, who is often quoted on this subject, “Necessity is the mother of invention, it is true, but its father is creativity, and knowledge is the midwife.”

The latest science agrees, suggesting there are many factors that go into invention and creation. Need plays a role, like in Tijuana, but studies suggest that creativity entails a lot more.

Is creativity a right brain activity?

Neuroscience has given us new insights about creativity, clarifying what it is, and more importantly, how to enhance it. Creativity is not located solely in one spot on the right side of the brain. We can no longer use the excuse to explain away someone else’s creativity as, “Well, they were just born with it.”

MRI studies (where people solve riddles or brain teasers, create rap lyrics, draw or otherwise improvise inside the MRI machine) show that when a person is being creative the brain lights up in many, many locales—not in a single spot on the brain’s right side. All over the brain, right and left, these illuminated areas are associated with facts, experiences, motor activity, emotions, knowledge, and memories.


It would seem, everything we have ever experienced is involved in our creativity.

Studies show that creativity is exactly that, a spark, a new and unique connection between two or more spots in our brains. A person who has a greater number of points (call them memories, facts, experiences) in their brain to draw upon is much more likely to have that new and unusual connection, that spark of creativity.


A brain with few facts and experiences can only make a few ordinary connections.


A brain with many facts and experiences can make more connections, especially more unique connections.

What about kids?

On the Tijuana landfills, children often work alongside their families. They collect and try to sell to strangers all sorts of items they’ve found or made. These kids aren’t old enough to have a lot of knowledge or experiences, so why do children everywhere seem to have a tremendous amount of creativity without a lot of knowledge?

Kids often connect their dots randomly and therefore stumble into creativity. Their thinking isn’t rigid about what experience is supposed to connect with which fact. They are more likely to make spontaneous and wild connections, which adults see as creative. Those same adults tend to suppress any odd ball connections they might have.

But, studies show that by third grade the ability to connect random dots in a creative or unusual manner decreases. One of the theories thrown out there is that kids are limited by a growing awareness of rules and regulations. Others say it could be the educational system. And as kids get even older, the peer pressure to fit into an accepted mold discourages both creativity and individuality.

So how are we supposed to counter those forces in order to maintain or encourage childhood creativity?

The answer seems to be in providing kids with creative outlets. Scientists suggest asking them open-ended questions, playing ‘what-if’ games, and giving them problems that require creativity in solving, such as riddles or situations where the answers aren’t obvious. What can they make from three random objects or what can they draw from a squiggle on a piece of paper?

Take kids to new places and provide them with lots of knowledge, information, and experiences to populate their brains. Encourage curiosity. Follow the ants to see where they go instead of stepping on them. Help kids build a repository of memories and then let them freely explore the ideas that result.

How can a person enhance his or her own creativity?

Most Americans don’t have survival as the impetus to be creative like the people who live on the landfill. But for those whose job requires creativity or who have a creative hobby, what can be done to enhance it? Science tells us a number of ways we can stimulate our own creativity.

Make more dots that can be connected across a wide range of knowledge and experience.

Discoveries, inventions, and creative ideas come from synthesizing information across different fields and building on the works of others. Most creative or scientific breakthroughs come from people who have been learning about their own field for many years. Studies suggest it takes approximately ten years worth of experiences or knowledge in any given area to be able to invent or create something really new and innovational.

But all experiences count. It’s easy to see how important it is to create a storehouse of knowledge and memories that we can draw upon later, providing our brains with a web of opportunities to spark that unique connection.


Be optimistic.

No matter how hard they have it, most people living on the Tijuana landfills are optimistic, always hoping for a better life. Studies show that being positive works alongside knowledge and experience to boost creativity and ingenuity. Realizing that first ideas are often worthless (the simple, easy connections in the brain), we should push ourselves further until we have that flash of genius (combining ordinary ideas in extraordinary ways).

Take a shower (But keep a waterproof notepad handy).

There are many anecdotes about how someone got an idea or an answer to a problem in the warm relaxation of the shower or bathtub. One of the ideas for the Hubble telescope folding arms came to its engineer while taking a shower. Greek scientist Archimedes was stepping into a bathtub when the principle of fluids came to him. Creativity doesn’t blossom under pressure. We need to relax. A shower does that.

Have some alone time.

Inventor and engineer Nikola Tesla said that to be alone is the secret of invention, that working or relaxing alone is where ideas are born. Often daydreaming and pondering without interruption triggers those obscure connections we seek.

Take a walk.

Taking a walk helps us get away from our problem for awhile. It also allows our subconscious to work on testing connections without putting up barriers. Once all the raw material is loaded into our mind, we need to allow it to incubate while we take a slow pleasant walk. Listen to the birds. Smell the flowers along the way. Eureka! The answer to our problem has appeared to us, like magic.

Take a trip or live in a foreign country.

The American Psychological Association was the first to study the links between living abroad and creativity. It found that foreign travel was like thinking outside the box, expanding one’s experiences and knowledge and boosting creativity. After living many years in Paris, the Spanish artist Picasso created Cubism only after he spent time studying art in Africa.

Take a nap.

Wasn’t Sir Isaac Newton relaxing/napping under an apple tree when an apple fell on his head? Was it the nap or the experience of the apple conking him in the head that sparked his first ideas about gravity? Or both?


Napping works. A power nap of twenty minutes helps alertness and motor skills. A ‘REM sleep’ nap of sixty minutes or longer can boost your memory, energy, and especially creativity, helping you solve those creative problems. On the other hand, sleep deprivation has been proven to stifle creativity and problem solving.

Then there’s Google.

We’ve all heard of Google employee job perks—a place to take a nap, music, serene grounds to stroll through, a basketball court, library, and gym, etc.  Well, it turns out, these types of diversions are the very things science says will trigger those sparks of genius that the Google employees are known for. Google is correct. These diversions may not be perks at all, but a necessity for creativity.


Is creativity something one is born with?
No. Anyone from any background can be creative. Given enough knowledge and experiences to build upon, almost anyone could create something unique or innovational. The goal is to pack your brain with facts and experience which you can draw upon later when you need it.

Is creativity in a specific spot in the right side of the brain?
No. In an MRI scan, the brain lights up in multiple places during creative activities. The brain draws upon all the experiences, memories and knowledge the person has to reach a solution.

Can creativity be enhanced?
Yes. We can increase the number of possible connections in our brain. That means we must see more, learn more, do more, feel more. When we need a creative idea, we allow our subconscious to work on making those connections. Relax. Take a shower. Take a nap. Take a walk or even a trip.

The spark of an idea or the answer to a problem can come in any moment, in peace and quiet, in a diversion or in physical activity, so keep your phone or notepad handy.

JellyFishSharkCollageTijuana graffiti – Jellyfish, Shark, and Turtle


I created this post after visiting a foreign country, walking my dogs—and then taking a nap.

How do you boost your creativity?


Kathryn Sant is a retired obstetrician who has witnessed the births of thousands of future readers. She has published a middle-grade novel, Desert Chase (Scholastic), and under the pseudonym BBH McChiller she is a co-author of the fun, spooky Monster Moon mystery series. Curse at Zala Manor is the first book in the series, Secret of Haunted Bog is the second title, and the upcoming Legend of Monster Island will be the third. She is currently working on two middle-grade boys’ adventure novels and the next Monster Moon book.

Her interest in adventure, research, and genealogy has led to a love of world travel, exotic adventures, and museums of all kinds. But she also enjoys quiet evenings reading with her dogs at her side.



Creating an Audio Book

pugMany authors seek to understand how to create an audio version of their book(s) to attract more followers. At face value, the process can seem complex and daunting. In the next few minutes, I hope to give you a one hundred-foot perspective to remove the scariness and get you on your way achieving your objective.

First and foremost, design a marketing plan for your audio book even before you create it. Without a plan to get others to notice, it will not matter how good it is. Set yourself up for success to realize profit on the time and effort you spend creating your audio book.

Next, you need to choose whether you will record the story yourself or have a professional narrator record it for you–cost is usually the primary concern, but allow me to expand your considerations. I have done both, so allow me to share insights I gleaned from creating a podcast of my first book, Andy Smithson: Blast of the Dragon’s Fury on my own, versus my experience using ACX with a professional narrator for the audio book of my second book, Andy Smithson: Venom of the Serpent’s Cunning.

With Amazon’s acquisition of ACX, there are a host of professional narrators available to bring your story to life in ways the page cannot. With ACX, you can choose to either pay the narrator on an hourly basis leaving you the full profit after ACX fees, or you can do a revenue share to split the risk and reward. I recorded my audio book at ACX with a revenue share agreement because I had no history to go on to judge fan interest.

Things to consider when using a professional narrator:

  • Narrators are in this for the money, just like you. As such, interested narrators will want to know how you plan to market the audio book so they can gauge potential sales. Have a compelling marketing narrative at hand so prospective narrators will view you as a positive opportunity.
  • Do a gut check. An audio book is not the solution to slow book sales, but an additional distribution channel. If your books have not sold well, understand that you need to take care of your narrator’s income if you want him/her to be available to record more than one audio book, particularly if you have a series.
  • If you choose to pursue a narrator on ACX, your next step is to spec out your project and find qualified candidates. To do so, create an account on and go to for specific next steps.

micIf you choose to record your book yourself, steps for success include:

  • Download free audio editing software from Audacity at I found this software very easy to use as a novice. It’s forgiving and will give you a quality product.
  • Purchase a condenser microphone. There are many inexpensive mics on the market, but if they are less than $75, they will not give you the clear sound you seek. I purchased the Audio-Technica AT2020 USB condenser microphone. This website ( has it for $99.
  • I also purchased Podcasting for Dummies and found it to be immensely helpful for all the specifics related to the Audacity software.
  • Use YouTube videos to learn specific tips about recording. There are a host of these videos at that give suggestions, among which include: have a glass of water handy, wear casual clothes so the fabric will not make noise when you move, and more.
  • If you want to make your book sound even more professional, consider adding some royalty free music. There are a host of selections for not a lot of money at
  • FYI: You can still distribute your book through ACX so you can leverage the power of Amazon.

Believe it or not, that’s it. This is the landscape for creating an audio book. I think you will agree it is not unreasonably complicated, even if you choose to do it yourself. To listen to my works:
Podcast of Book 1: Andy Smithson: Blast of the Dragon’s Fury – FREE on my website at that I produced myself.
Sample of Book 2: Andy Smithson: Venom of the Serpent’s Cunning – at Amazon in which I used a professional narrator via ACX.

What questions can I answer about creating an audio book?


Linda2L. R. W. Lee is the author of the Andy Smithson MG/YA coming of age fantasy adventure series. A planned 7-book series, the following are currently available:
Blast of the Dragon’s Fury, Book One
Venom of the Serpent’s Cunning, Book Two.
Book Three, Disgrace of the Unicorn’s Honor is coming October 13th!

She is a wife, mom and reader of the same kinds of books she writes. From age 8 she had a passion to write books that not only entertain, but also teach uncommon life principles. Learn more about her books, read sample chapters, watch trailers, see reviews and much more!

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You’re Practically Grown Up…NOT!

Tween traitEighth-graders frequently seem confused about how grown up they are. And do you blame them? Not me. Twelve to fourteen-year-olds pay adult admission, and are about to make the giant leap into high school, yet they’re not allowed to drive or work. Bummer. Girls, already on the road in developing the forms and functions of grown women, deal with parents who one moment scold, “You’re practically grown up!” and then awhile later become hysterical when their princess ASKS about the ins and outs of dating. Boys, with their physical and sexual maturity just beginning to awaken, are suddenly surrounded by a horde of newly attractive and unnervingly gigantic girls. Yikes!

Most eighth-graders concerns are related to friends, family, and school. Honestly, it’s a social media nightmare at times. Are they going to be embarrassed? Will their BFF still be their friend tomorrow? Does he like me like me, or just like me? You get the drift.

So as a writer, how do you connect with such a tough audience, who’s not quite grown up, yet feel that all systems are go and are ready to wear bigger shoes? One way is to hook into their characteristics, and extract a much needed trait or a combination of traits to make your characters feel authentic to your readers. In order to do this, we need to take a look at what makes an eighth-grader tick.

Here are some 8th Grader Characteristics:

  • Can be touchy, and express anger easily.
  • Music is increasingly important to them, as is technology and the latest got-to-have gadget.
  • Sarcasm is a prevalent quality. (I use that one a lot!)
  • As their self-concept develops, they can be withdrawn or prone to challenging others. They struggle with a sense of identity.
  • Abstract reasoning skills are strengthening and expanding.
  • May test limits and rules, but also develop ideals and choose role models.
  • Skin problems may be emerging, boys’ voices are changing, and girls are menstruating. Personal hygiene and self-confidence become issues.
  • May begin to experiment with sex and substances.

Remember, readers this age are looking for escape, to experience things they can’t in their own lives. Being attuned to how they think, and what they’re feeling is a step in the right direction to creating a story that will keep this age group turning page after page of your latest tween read!

Sharon Ledwith HeadshotSharon Ledwith is the author of the middle-grade/YA time travel series, THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS, available through Musa Publishing, and is represented by Walden House (Books & Stuff) for her teen psychic series, MYSTERIOUS TALES FROM FAIRY FALLS. When not writing, researching, or revising, she enjoys reading, yoga, and anything arcane. Sharon lives a serene, yet busy life in a tourist region of Ontario, Canada, with her hubby, one spoiled yellow Labrador and a moody calico cat.

Learn more about Sharon Ledwith on her WEBSITE and BLOG. Look up her AMAZON AUTHOR page for a list of current books. Stay connected on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, GOOGLE+, TUMBLR, and GOODREADS. Check out THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS TIME TRAVEL SERIES Facebook page.

Dr. Who?



I remember as a child watching a lot of science fiction with my dad. I loved Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica. What I didn’t love was Dr. Who.

Oh, how it scared me! But I was quite young, probably around 7 or 8 years old. But there’s a new Dr. Who currently streaming on Netflix or Amazon Prime Video and it might be what some Harry Potter fans are looking for.

Dr. Who is a wonderful mix of science fiction, time travel, horror, and campy humor. It’s not scary at all, in fact a number of my friend’s tweens are watching it with their parents and enjoying the series. The horror aspect in some episodes are: a giant bug stuck on your back that changes reality, evil metal man-shaped robots that don’t have any feelings, and blobs of fat that run off of you and look adorable as they float off to the mother-ship.

dr who1

But I figured an interview with my friend Katie who is 11 might help you decide if you want to try out Dr. Who for yourself.

When did you start watching Dr. Who?

When I was 10, my mom heard from a friend that it was a good show. So we decided to try it out and we’re hooked. We watch it on Netflix.

What would you tell someone your age who has never heard of Dr. Who?

I’d tell them that it’s Science Fiction, that it’s really funny and that there are some aliens that can be scary but not very scary.

What is your favorite thing about watching Dr. Who?

The companions and the sonic screwdriver.

sonic_screwdriver (Me butting in, Companions are the Doctor’s friends that he takes with him on his adventures, and the sonic screwdriver, well that’s his trusty fix-everything device, a must for all time travelers!)

It’s also cool that the Doctor can change, that way when one actor gets tired of doing it another one can take his place. I cried when my favorite David Tenant left the show but I really like the next Doctor, Matt Smith.

(Me again, the Doctor can regenerate when he’s injured!)

Katie has become such a fan of the show that she says she loves it just as much as Harry Potter.

There are a number of Dr. Who books published in a series beginning in 2009 by BBC Press. I’ve found them in the YA section of my local library. A great way to start a new fan on the Dr. Who universe.


The Tardis- The Doctor’s time traveling space ship

For the Harry Potter fans who may be looking for something new and different this might be the show and book series for them. Katie even has a new t-shirt, it says:

My Patronus is a Tardis!

I think I’d like to own that t-shirt too!

AnshaKotyk Ansha Kotyk writes books about adventure with just a hint of the fantastical, just like a Dr. Who episode. Her first book Gangsterland follows Jonathan who falls into his comic book about 1920′s gangsters… and the adventures he has.


New Release: Of Mice and Momphibraks

MOT 1 coverA collection of satirical princess stories and spoofed fairy tales begins with the first installment of A Maze of Tales~Of Mice and Momphibraks.  Each short story will come out on Amazon for kindle, and when the collection is complete, a paperback anthology will bring the whole mess (…er maze) together.


The first tale begins in a kingdom so ridiculously far, far, far away from anything else that potential conquering (or at least pestering) forces couldn’t be bothered to make the journey for such a small patch of land, no matter how fertile the fields or how full of magical mice.  Princess Pennilopintha is about to find true love…but not until her prince cuts the cheese.  Literally.


Coming soon: Saccharine White (she smiles with artificial sweetness)!  Each story is connected to the one before it by at least one character, and they will all eventually loop back around to the beginning.  Think of them as baseball cards or stickers and be sure to collect them all!

Emblazon headshot

For more on Lia London, see



Have you ever heard of star lore? You possibly have, but haven’t even considered that star lore is the name for mythical stories about stars and constellations. It’s a fun subject to delve into, and the summer months are a perfect time for it.

You may have stood outside on a hot summer night and gazed up at the myriad of stars shining across the galaxy. It’s difficult to get the full impact of such an activity if you live in the city or a suburban area, with all the competition of man-made lights. But if you live in the country, or ever get the chance to go camping, you’ll be amazed at the awesome sight overhead.

Orion is an easily identifiable constellation, once you locate the three small (from this distance!) stars that make up his belt. They lie at a slight diagonal, so you can hardly miss them. The Dippers, too, are fairly easy to find. But many of the constellations are a bit trickier to the untrained eye. There are books available with star charts that can help if you’re interested in becoming an amateur astronomer.

What made me think of this is the time of year. This time, between early July and mid-August, is known as the Dog Days of Summer. As a child, I didn’t understand the reference, so I asked my parents what it meant. I think my mother made some vague comment about the extreme heat being something only a dog could love, but my dad explained in a bit more detail. According to my dad, it all goes back to the myth of the Dog Star, Sirius.

Sirius is the brightest star in the summer sky, at least here in the northern hemisphere. One reason it appears so bright is because it is so close to earth, whereas many of the other stars are a lot farther away. Sirius, as it happens, is the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major. To my untrained eye, it appears that Sirius is located right where a collar might encircle the dog’s neck. Others may see it differently.

There are many myths surrounding the constellation Canis Major. Some ancient civilizations thought the constellation resembled a hunting bow with an arrow – aimed roughly at Orion. Some of them refer to this constellation, which resembles the shape of a dog, as being one of Orion’s hunting dogs. Others also saw it as a dog, possibly one that belonged to other gods or goddesses, or that it was the fastest dog in the world and a god sent him up to the heavens as a reward for his great speed. Whatever the beliefs, people have, in the past, recognized that when Sirius appears shortly after sunrise, the hot, dry days of summer are upon us. Some even offered red dog sacrifices to appease the gods during this time. Yuck!

I’ve read several middle grade books lately that integrate the stars and even some of the myths surrounding them. One is Winter Sky, by Patricia Reilly Giff. Another one that I just finished is The Same Stuff as Stars, by Katherine Paterson. Wish You Weren’t, by Sherrie Petersen, a fellow indie author, also deals in star lore, and you might want to check out Cyclesby Lois Decker Brown, and The Candle Star, by Michelle Athearn Isenhoff. You can find those last two FREE on Amazon. And if you’re into picture books, look for The Little Moon Princess, by Y. J. Lee. All of these books feature astronomical bodies and are lovely reads.

I hope you all have an opportunity to observe the bright lights up in the heavens, and possibly learn more about them, along with all the other constellations that are out there. If you’ve already explored these distant bodies, I’d love to hear of your experiences. Sharing our knowledge and life experiences is a great way to open doors of friendship and expand our minds and hearts.


Cordelia Dinsmore